The Indianapolis Colts dug themselves into another hole in Nashville on Thursday night, and once again they managed to scramble out of it to extend their lead atop the AFC South.
Trailing 17-6 at the half, a combination of youth and experience stepped up to ensure the Pagano-led Colts maintained their impressive record of never losing back-to-back regular season games. Second year tight end Coby Fleener had a career day, catching 8 passes for 107 yards from quarterback Andrew Luck, who finished the game 23/36 for 232 yards and ran for a touchdown. Veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri was perfect on the night, converting all three field goal attempts including a crucial 50-yarder in the third quarter, while 5th year running back Donald Brown carried the ball 80 yards and scored two touchdowns, giving offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton something to think about as Trent Richardson continues to struggle.
The opening quarter was all Tennessee as their no-huddle offense and strong running game overwhelmed the Indy defense. Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick started the opening drive from the Titans’ 20-yard line and marched down-field with a variety of short and intermediate passes across the middle of the field, adopting a tactic employed last week with great success by the St. Louis Rams. Running back Chris Johnson capped the series with a 30-yard run into the endzone and the Titans were ahead early.
The Colts struggled to get things going on offense and were down by 14 after a quick three-and-out, Johnson scoring on a 7 yard run for his second touchdown of the evening. Johnson rushed for 70 yards in the first quarter but managed only 19 additional yards in remainder of the game. Both teams exchanged field goals in the second quarter, with Vinatieri scoring from 48 and 30 yard attempts to end the half 17-6 Tennessee. The Colts have been out-scored 66-9 in the first half of the last three games, something that needs to addressed in order to achieve a deep play-off run.
Indy opened the second half with a reinvigorated look about them, running the ball well with Brown and Richardson sharing the load. Luck began to spread the ball around, targeting Hilton, Fleener and Whelan before handing the ball to Brown who plunged into the endzone from 7 yards out for his first score of the evening. The ensuing kickoff proved to be the turning point of the game as Dan Herron recovered the football after Devon Wylie fumbled deep in Titans’ territory. Two plays later, Andrew Luck was spiking the ball in celebration after running in from 11 yards out on a fake pass play. 17 unanswered points saw the Colts take the lead for the first time in the game, and Vinatieri extended the lead with a 50-yard boot, ending the third quarter 23-17 Indianapolis.
The Titans could only muster a field goal attempt on their next drive as the Colts’ defense started to set the edge and bottle up Chris Johnson. Rob Bironas hit from 38 yards to cut the deficit to 3 points, before the Colts’ power running game effectively ended the contest. Donald Brown ran for over 40 yards on Indy’s final drive and scored the winning touchdown after a roughing the passer penalty set up the Colts at the 10-yard line. Fitzpatrick was able to respond with a quick 80-yard touchdown drive of his own, but a failed onside kick – covered by linebacker Pat Angerer – sealed the win of Indianapolis, improving their record to 7-3 and increasing the lead to 3 wins in the AFC South over the now 4-6 Tennessee Titans
Final Score: Indianapolis Colts 30-27 Tennessee Titans
Next Game: Indianapolis Colts – @ Arizona Cardinals
Tennessee Titans – @ Oakland Raiders
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